MUSIC FROM THE SOUNDTRACK OF “MICKEY ONE” PLAYED BY STAN GETZ / SAUTER: Once Upon a Time (2 tk); Mickey’s Theme; Medley: On Stage, Mickey’s Flight, The Crushout (2 tks); Medley: Is There Any Word From the Lord?, Up From Limbo, If You Ever Need Me; The Succuba; Mickey Polka; Medley: Where I Live, The Apartment, Cleaning Up for Jenny, The Polish Landlady; Medley: I Put My Life in Your Hands, A Girl Named Jenny (2 tks); Medley: Yes, The Creature Machine, Guilty of Not Being Innocent, Touching in Love; Morning Ecstasy (Under the Scaffold) (2 tks); As Long As I Live; Is There Any Word From the Lord? So This is the Word (2 tks); Mickey’s Flight; Is There Any Word, Up From Limbo; Medley: (Going to) Who Owns Me, The Big Fight / Stan Getz, t-sax; Clark Terry, tp/fl-hn; Joe Ferrante, Bobby Nichols, Al DeRisi, tp; Eddie Bert, Sonny Russo, Johnny Messner, Ephaim Resick, tb; Tommy Mitchell, bs-tb; Jimmy Buffington, Richard Berg, Bob Abernathy, Ray Alonge, Earl Chapin, Fr-hn; Donald Ashworth, oboe; Al Block, pic/fl/cl/t-sax; Harvey Estrin, cl/fl/a-fl/pic/a-sax; Wally Kane, bsn/cl/bs-sax; Ray Shiner, E-hn/oboe/cl/t-sax; Charles Russo, woodwind; George Ockner, Herbert Baumel, John Pintavalle, Matthew Raimondi, David Nadien, Leon Cruczek, Charles Libove, Alan Martin, Norman Carr, Ed Simons, Dave Mankovitz, Bernard Eichen, Louis Gabowitz, vln; Julien Barber, Janet Simons, Leon Ferngut, Julius Shaler, vla; Charles McCracken, George Ricci, Harvey Shapiro, Bruce Rogers, cello; Laura Newell, harp; Roger Kellaway, pn; Barry Galbraith, gt; Richard Davis, bs; Harvey Phillips, tuba; Mel Lewis, dm; Joe Venuto, vib; Phil Kraus, Herbie Harris, Elden C. Bailey, Walter Rosenberg, perc. (1965) Verve 531 232-2
In the fall of 1967, as a senior in a Catholic high school, I was in the English class of one of the school’s lay teachers, “Mr. D.” (His last name was D’Antonio.) He was probably a Commie at heart since he assigned us Arthur Miller’s McCarthy-era play The Crucible to read and discuss in class and played us Hippie rock music about expanding your mind like Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense and Peppermints, but the real coup of my year with him was that he was somehow able to rent and play for the class Arthur Penn’s 1965 surrealist film, Mickey One. I had no idea at the time that it too symbolized the “Communist witch hunts” (that weren’t witch hunts at all, because most of the fish they fried were Communists and needed to be removed) by showing a man trapped in an atmosphere where he didn’t know where to turn or who he could trust. All I knew is that it was one of the most complex, strange and endlessly fascinating movies I had ever seen—and I am not, and have never been, much of a movie fan. In fact, I liked it so much that I begged my teacher to let me return during my free (study) period and watch it again, which he allowed me to do.
For the next 40 years, many scenes (and lines) from the movie were permanently etched into my brain: Mickey’s escape from Detroit on a boxcar, the “car crusher” in the junkyard lot, his reticent return to performing stand-up comedy under an assumed name, and especially the strange little Japanese junk man in his cart who kept appearing, smiling, and waving at Mickey as if he knew him. As soon as I learned that the movie had been released (finally!) to the public on DVD I bought a copy, and was amazed by how much I had retained in my mind (as well as a few lines and scenes I hadn’t recalled).
The music was also part of what I remembered, but only in snippets and fragments, as is the case with so much movie music both good and bad. Of course I knew who Stan Getz was, and I knew Eddie Sauter’s name as one of Benny Goodman’s arrangers in the early 1940s, but this wasn’t conventional big-band music or conventional film scoring. I was impressed by how well Getz played on it, but as I say, within the context of the film all we got were incomplete fragments. Here, on this “soundtrack” recording, what we really have are two different albums. Tracks 1-12 are the pieces Sauter wrote, played complete by the excellent studio orchestra (take a look at the personnel: there are a lot of ringers in there, including some former members of Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force Band), in fine stereo sound. The remainder of the album are those same tracks, cut up, truncated and mixed together in different patches, along with background noise and/or talking as they sounded on the actually soundtrack. Probably the most fascinating is track 13, Mickey’s Flight, which turns out to be the raw feed of Getz’s a cappella sax improvisations in takes 107 through 113(!) of the soundtrack. Some of these were eventually spliced together to form the three-way conversation Getz has with himself in the middle of track 3.
What impresses the listener today, particularly when one hears this music divorced from the film, is how hard Sauter worked to provide “standard” music for specific scenes (Mickey’s Polka, stand-up comedy intro music, and even a Salvation Army-type hymn for the scene where Mickey is hiding out in a storefront church) while still retaining enough creativity to produce original works of musical interest that could be slipped into the film. It is the latter that holds our attention here although Getz’ unflagging invention, including an unusual instance where he plays rock music, almost steals the show from the scoring. Getz was an oddity in the jazz world, a universally admired improviser who was also loved by a public who didn’t know he was one of the nastiest S.O.B.s who ever walked the planet. He was forever demanding favors of his contacts in the music world while granting none himself; he was a misogynist who refused to work with any female jazz musician (and walked off the bandstand if he saw one up there); and even tried to have Verve Records not pay Astrid Gilberto any royalties from her vocals on his bossa nova records.
Considering the task he was assigned to do, Sauter responded very well. Many of these pieces, once you get beyond those passages tailored to specific onscreen situations, are creative and ingenious. True, they have a closer kinship with pop music of the day than of ’60 experimental jazz, but as I say, they work extremely well both in and out of context, and Getz’ work is simply stupendous. I’m not sure he ever eclipsed this in any of his subsequent studio recordings.
The funny thing is, I honestly don’t recall seeing this album being sold in the stores. My guess is that it was issued in 1965 to capitalize on the release of Penn’s film, which garnered great critical acclaim, but when the movie bombed at the box office (many viewers simply didn’t get it) the soundtrack LP was probably allowed to perish in the catalogue. At least, that’s all I can think of. Yet despite its fragmented nature, it remains a fascinating and even mesmerizing listening experience; I would equate it to flipping up and down the AM dial on your car radio back in the 1960s, tuning in several different genres of pop music (including bossa nova, of course) over which Stan Getz is heard playing creative, imaginative solos. The important thing is not to ignore the musical context provided by Sauter, which I suppose I did as a 16-year-old. For collectors of jazz film scores, this was probably the last really great one in a string of such movies going back to such early-‘50s Hollywood products as Private Hell 36 (score by Leith Stevens) and Crime in the Streets (music by Franz Waxman). It’s really a shame that the movie bombed in the theaters, because it probably changed the course of the career of the film’s star, Warren Beatty, who came to national prominence in the garish but trashy flick Bonnie and Clyde. This one is highly recommended if you can find it.
— © 2016 Lynn René Bayley